My Final Post At Reformation 21: Another Deterrent to Evangelism
How many baptisms upon profession of faith have you administered or seen? I asked my church, as well as fellow pastors and ruling elders in the PCA, the same question. Overall, the answer was, 'very few.' Now, one of the easiest things to do is rationalize the numbers by explaining why they are so low (e.g., We do not re-baptize. Therefore, if someone was baptized as a teenager but came to faith in her thirties under our ministry, we do not administer the sacrament again). Examples like that do occur, but with the growing number of non-Christian households in this nation (i.e., USA), we would need far more instances like the aforementioned to sweep our shallow numbers under the proverbial rug.
I have announced to my congregation, on several occasions, that we want to see non-Christians come to saving faith and be baptized. And as I have been considering how to mold our church, humanly speaking, into a people who are zealous to see that occur, I was struck by the exhortation found in Colossians 4:5-6. Here is Murray Harris' expanded paraphrase of that passage.
"Be tactful and wise in all your relations with unbelievers; buy up every possible opportunity to influence them for the kingdom of God. Let your conversation always be graciously winsome and seasoned with the salt of wit and pungency, so that you may know how you should give an answer suitable for each occasion and each need to each separate individual" (198).
Before considering that a bit more, however, please allow me to say, 'thank you.' This is my final post at Reformation 21. No one has asked me to leave. In fact, I am surprised that I was never asked to leave. Next to Carl Trueman and Mark Jones, I may have caused the most trouble, especially with my posts about ethnicity and sex. Despite the unrest I may have created, I will no longer write for this blog simply because I have decided to refocus my attention a bit. Having a young family, planting a church, working toward my PhD in Hebrew, and many other things keep me quite busy. And writing for this great blog does take a percentage of my time that I can utilize in other places. Regardless of my reasons for leaving, again, I say, 'thank you.' Thank you to the readers, but also to Robert Brady, Gabriel Fluhrer, and Derek Thomas. You all have been great to me. You took a risk. You knew that I would write about things that are unpopular in our circles and that have not been previously considered on this blog. So again, thank you.
At any rate, in a sermon titled, "And the Nuts and Bolts," Dr. Dale Ralph Davis, of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, in response to Colossians 4:5-6, said that Paul is exhorting Christians to responsive evangelism. Dr. Davis said,
"Keep walking in wisdom toward those on the outside. Now, those are pagans, those who are not Christians. And you're snapping up the opportunity. Well, what opportunity might that be? Well, he mentions in verse 6 [that] your speech must always be with grace, seasoned with salt that you may know how you ought to give an answer to each one. It's talking about your relationship to pagans, those who don't share your faith. Don't look on them as a hurdle; don't look on them as a hinderance; don't look on them as a frustration; nothing like that but snap up the opportunity that they may give you. Dick Lucas makes a helpful point. He says basically what you have is responsive evangelism.... There are opportunities that come to you. You don't have to concoct them; you don't have to try to worm your way into them. It's something that comes as presented to you and you snap up the opportunity. And you did it with speech that is both gracious and seasoned with salt."
Provided Paul's exhortation to the church, at least in this epistle, is to integrate 'responsive evangelism' in their, and our, lives, how can we do this if we do not spend much time with non-Christians? How can we do this if we do not cultivate relationships with pagans so that we can snap up, or buy up, every opportunity to "influence them for the kingdom of God"?
This is another deterrent to evangelism: Christians do not spend much time with non-Christians.
Christian fellowship and hospitality are amazing. The glories of spending time with other saints is one of the blessings of being a part of Christ's Church. And yet I believe we should also spend time with non-Christians. We need to snap up the opportunities that are given to us in order to share the gospel and invite non-Christians to church. How can we do that if the majority of our interactions is with Christians?
If that is you, that is you spend very little time with non-Christians, let me suggest two ways to change that.
1) Start local. Unless you live in Grand Rapids, MI, (that is a joke), you have non-Christians on your street. Begin by reacquainting yourself with them. Invite them into your home for a meal. Get to know them better than you do now. That will require you to spend more time with them.
2) Consider those at work. Consider inviting those at work into your home for a meal. Be hospitable to them.
As you begin getting to know other image-bearers, it is my prayer that the Lord will enable you to snap up every opportunity to influence them for the kingdom of God, and in his perfect timing, may he bring those persons to saving faith that you may rejoice with the angels in witnessing their profession of faith and baptism.
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